You could tell when Leftfield had begun because the corridor separating the bar from the hall began to vibrate. Inside, the combined decibel force was enough to shiver the spinal column, and the deep frequencies from the bass speakers reverberated through the body until you feared the packed house might congeal on the floor like so many salamanders. It was great, too, this visceral communication between skeleton and sound system - there was no effort involved at all.
Leftfield, doing their first British live show, are a dance music phenomenon. Their Leftism album is two years old and still going strong, having sold almost 300,000 copies in the UK. The difficult transition to a live act has been accomplished by going out as a son et lumiere attraction, and while the lumiere may have been a bit lacklustre, the son was magnificently alive. It was also, of course, mostly dead, relayed by hard drive and DAT and embellished by a few real-time instrumental flourishes and PAs by assorted front-men.
The pre-programmed nature of the performance was also evident in the Pavlovian responses of the adulatory crowd. When the rhythm was doubled up into quick-time, everyone went wild - every single time. But Leftfield can do no wrong. Their album displays a worrying kind of Orientalism, with black voices used to convey an essence of exotic otherness to the often numbingly unfunky rhythms. One number features a long rap in African dialect, and even the white MCs pronounce Bristol "Brees-tal!" - but the life-support system of the sound rendered us all Ravey Davey Gravys and the performance had to count as a triumph. On the way home, one imagined, revellers gathered at pelican crossings, kicking it large to the beeps.Reuse content